Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Spaghetti and cowboys: part 1

Title: Tepepa
Year: 1969
Composer: Ennio Morricone

After Halloween it’s time to start a new review series concentrating on the music of spaghetti westerns. And a series about spaghetti westerns couldn’t be complete without a mention of the one composer who pretty much created the sound for the films or at least perfected it. I’ll start from a score of his that isn’t that well-known though, called Tepepa. The film tells a story during the time of the Mexican revolution and features a score that is missing some of the usual trademarks Morricone implemented on these films.

The score begins with its connecting little motif, a two-note piano rumble. It’s followed by a very familiar sounding theme for woodwinds and acoustic guitar. I don’t know what makes the theme sound so ‘Mexican’ but it certainly has that kind of fling to my ear. After the theme we get a development section that has the piano motif dancing amid quicker march-like brass and guitars. It’s followed by a classical music inspired chorale before quieting down back to the main theme. This title track is easily the best thing about the score since it’s just so uplifting and melodically pleasing throughout leaving a warm feeling to the listener’s heart. The ending cue reprises the first track faithfully but has a different guitar introduction and some of the other instrumental changes and additional main theme moments compared to the first version and it actually ends with the chorale providing a powerful close to the album.

Tepepa e Price has some interesting instrumental colours with guitars and whistles without a significant theme. The piano motif transforms into a piece of slight unease in Tradimento primo over strings that are so undeniably Morricone western. It also features a twanging guitar and other stranger guitar string manipulations. A metà strada has also the Morricone western style written over it. It’s a peaceful cue where the sunset imagery is created by soft strings and distant guitars.

There’s actually an original song sung by an artist called Christy who worked with Morricone in some of his spaghetti western scores. The melody is quite powerful and the performance is just so over-the-top passionate, that it’s just a blast to listen to. The song itself consists of a constant guitar base where the verses are divided by crystal-clear trumpet solos. There are much better Morricone songs available but this one doesn’t distract from the overall style and is good fun nonetheless.

Una rosa develops the beginning track’s Mexican influences even further with a cheerful Mariachi band source cue. Consegna delle armi is another serene elegy that was done better in other Morricone westerns. The only two pieces of real suspense writing are Una povera casa and Tradimendo secondo. The latter features similar reprises of the piano motif and the twanging guitar to the first version. However they’re short-lived because of disruptive suspense material consisting of swirling strings, harpsichord chords and military percussion.

I own the version of the score that’s only 30 minutes long. I don’t know whether longer versions of the score add something new to the mix but besides the killer title track and the song, there isn’t really that much originality the listener can get a grasp on. Those moments I mentioned though are quite special and provide enough beautiful melodies to get through the short duration of the album.

Rating: ****

1. Viva la revoluciòn [Tepepa] (04:22) *****
2. Tepepa e Price (00:58) ****
3. Tradimento primo (02:17) ****
4. A metà strada (01:51) *****
5. Al Messico che vorrei (04:52) *****
6. Una rosa (01:47) ***
7. Consegna delle armi (01:20) ****
8. Una povera casa (01:03) ***
9. Tradimento secondo (02:55) *****
10. Tepepa [Viva la ravoluciòn] (05:37) *****

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